Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween is a Ball

It didn't take a lot of imagination to come up with Bert's Halloween costume, but it did take a little bit of work. We decided early on that he would be a football, and I figured I could make the costume cheaper than we could buy something.

I started with a $4 brown long-sleeved onesie.

 Then I found the Wilson logo and used Illustrator to layout the logo and laces. Then I flipped it so that I would have a mirror image so I could trace it onto the Wonder Under. Wonder Under is a fusible web used for adhering one fabric to another.

After it was traced on, I ironed it to white fabric.

Then I carefully cut out the logos and laces and ironed them onto the onesie. I started with the laces to make sure I got them centered up before adding the logos.

Then I used my sewing machine and did a zig-zag stitch around all the white fabric and added a black button to look like the hole where you would use an air pump to fill the ball. Add a pair of brown fleece pants, and Bert was ready to go!

Bert debuted his costume tonight for downtown merchants' trick-or-treat night. No candy for babies though; we just walked around and checked out all the other costumes. (Our favorite was a toddler dressed up as a gnome.) Then we came home and took a few pictures.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Diaper Diaries: Part 3

Tales of the Dastardly Dryer

It is another rainy day here on the quarter-acre so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a little laundry number crunching with you. More specifically, the cost of running the clothes dryer. I really try to avoid using the dryer at all, opting to hang diapers, clothes, towels, sheets, everything out on the line as much as possible. A typical week includes four or five loads of laundry: two loads of diapers, one of dark clothes, one of light clothes, and towels or sheets. Since we've been getting a lot of rain lately, two of those loads usually end up in the dryer. It got me wondering: how much does it really cost to run our dryer? Our almond-bisque colored Frigidaire dryer, circa 1980, that came with the house?

Lucky for me, this is the kind of stuff Keith does at work so he whipped out a calculator and used this equation to give us an idea how much our dryer costs us each month:

Watts = Amps x Volts
(This information can be found on a tag attached to any electrical appliance).

kWh = (Watts x hours of use) / 1000
You are billed by your electric company for kilowatt hours (kWh). A kilowatt hour is equal to 1000 watts of electricity used for one hour (i.e. Ten-100 watt light bulbs used for one hour).

Cost = kWh x price/kWh (price/kWh can be found on your electric bill)

*This is a basic equation that can be used for any electrical appliance in your home and will provide you with an rough cost to operate an appliance. Calculators can also be found on many websites to help ease the pain for those math-haters out there. Keep in mind, this equation does not account for variations in usage which all appliances have; such as those that use larger amounts of energy at start up than during normal operation.

He based his numbers on two loads a week, totaling 3 hours of drying time, for a four-week month, or eight loads a month. The cost came to $12.79 a month, or about $1.60 per load. That's a serious chunk of change in my (pocket)book. If we didn't utilize the clothes line at all, we would be looking at $25-35 tacked on to our utility bill each month. Ouch!

Our disclaimer here is, as I mentioned, that our dryer is old. We often have to run more than a full cycle, especially if it's diapers we are drying. That's why we calculated each load at an hour and a half. Which got us thinking a little more: we have another, newer dryer in the basement that moved here with us. Would it do any better? Keith was back to the calculator in a flash, only to find that the newer dryer uses more watts, so even if the dry-time were a little shorter, we probably wouldn't be coming out any better. Not too surprising, since all electric dryers tend to use a similar amount of energy - this is the reason Energy Star does not rate clothes dryers.

At any rate, the calculation on the clothesline is pretty simple:
clothesline + wet clothes + sunshine + breeze = free

People are always talking about how they would love to use solar energy in their homes but it's too expensive. A clothesline has to have the biggest return on investment of any solar array.

And here is where we get back on the cloth diaper track. Besides the clothesline making the whole diapering escapade cheaper, the diapers actually end up cleaner. When the diapers come out of the wash, even though they are clean, they tend to have some stains from the poop. If you throw them in the dryer, then you just end up with dried stains. Out on the clothesline, the sun bleaches them out. Not just lightens them. Completely bleaches them away. It is my favorite magic trick, especially since you shouldn't use bleach on diapers because it can be harsh on babies' skin. So diapering is cleaner, cheaper, and greener on the clothesline. Oh how it makes me smile.

As far as washing the diapers, we are still using our homemade laundry soap (we are now on our second batch) and run a cold rinse cycle first and then a hot wash/cold rinse cycle with soap. 

Last note on the diapers has to do with diaper cream, or the lack thereof. We had started off using Desitin as needed with the liners, like I mentioned in an earlier post. Then we stopped using the liners. The Desitin was washing out ok, but there was still some residue. I knew there were a few other babies in cloth diapers at the library story time we go to, so I asked what they use. Then I asked their moms because the babies weren't much help. The answer? Lanolin. Pure lanolin. So we picked some up at the health food store (I think you can get it at drug stores too) and have been using it ever since. It seems to do the trick for Bert's bottom, and washes completely out of the diapers. I believe that's what they call a win-win situation. Oh, and it doesn't cost any more than a tube of diaper cream. Win-win-win. And it's all natural. Win-win-never mind, you get it.

Cloth diapers and lanolin,
approved by Bert's bum

Monday, October 17, 2011

Take a Little Trip

Since the first fall that Keith and I were dating, we have taken a drive up Blue Mountain to look at the leaves. It's something he used to do with his parents as a kid, and he was really excited to take Bert on his first fall foliage outing. Saturday looked like a nice day for a drive and we figured the leaves would be changing by now but didn't want to wait too long and drive around looking at bare branches, so off we went.

First things first though: a stop at the base of the mountain for lunch at the Blue Mountain Family Restaurant.

They have amazing chicken and waffles and the best part is they will set a quarter of your waffle aside to be topped with ice cream for dessert. Pumpkin pie ice cream on a warm waffle. Now that says fall.

Outside the restaurant is a nice playground, complete with a Bert-sized slide. Of course, we had to put him on it. He wasn't sure what to think so one trip down was enough.

After our food and fun, we strapped ourselves back in the car and headed up over the mountain. The leaves weren't as bright and colorful as some other years. We're guessing the super hot weather over the summer and then the deluge of fall rain might have something to do with it.

It was a little bit of a trip down memory lane because on the other side of the mountain are the ski slopes Keith took me to on our first date.

Bert was quite content to ride along in the back as we wound our way back towards home.

On our way back, we spotted this restaurant. We may need to make a change to our dining tradition.

Continuing and making traditions just might be one of our favorite parts of being a family!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gratuitous Cuteness

Trying to capture a smile...

He smiles when I move the
camera away from my face...

The screaming fit that ensues when I leave for yoga and it is just Bert and Dad...

Poor Bert...with a mom like me, you are probably destined to be a nerd.

Rockin' his new turtle hat...

and his party animal onesie!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Garden Wrap-Up

Despite Bert's arrival during prime gardening season, we are pretty pleased with our harvest. We were excited to make tomato sauce for the first time this year, as well as juicing some tomatoes. We also froze plenty of strawberries, blueberries, corn, spinach, and loads of bell and banana peppers. Onions, carrots, and potatoes were successful again. Our peas were so-so, but our big flop of the year was the green beans. The neighborhood rabbits ate them as soon as they sprouted so that was a total bust, even with multiple applications of our homemade rabbit repellent and another kind we bought.

On Sunday afternoon, while Bert napped and Keith worked on the apple tree area (more on that as we finish things up), I pulled out the weeds that were taking over the garden, as well as the tomato plants. This is what we are left with:

It's like a tomato battlefield with some serious carnage. In the top photo, you can see that the peppers are still hanging on so we'll let them go for a while yet. Soon we'll get everything pulled out and Keith will turn the soil over to help things compost during the winter.

In an effort to use up the last of the good tomatoes, Keith made some sort-of-salsa. I say that because he was just winging it, looking at a recipe and some online instructions about freezing salsa. Basically, salsa won't keep its consistency when frozen, so he threw tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, spices, whatever was on hand, into the food processor and blended it all. We'll try using it for chili and whatever else we can come up with.

He also performed a little surgery on our tiny pumpkin. No, not on Bert. On Bert's pumpkin. He wanted to save the seeds from it for next year. We also saved seeds from a butternut squash I cooked up for some baby food.

As the garden dies down, our rose bush gave one last "hurrah."

That brings our gardening projects to an end for the year, although we are already talking about what else we want to grow next year and where to add another bed. So maybe gardening is really a year-round endeavor. Especially when you get to enjoy the things you've grown all through the winter!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bert Says "Go Ville!"

The men of the quarter-acre experienced a first on Saturday night:

Field Hockey!

My cousin Mary plays for Millersville, who happened to be playing here in town, so it was a perfect opportunity for some quality extended family time. We all gathered here before the game and visited for awhile before heading up to campus on the other side of town. It's especially fun to watch her play because she's carrying on a family tradition, playing for the same team as my mom and aunts.

Bert tried on his hat from Aunt P and Shell, and then Shell taught him how to put his pacifier in by himself. I promise we'll take the mittens off before he wears his hat for real!

Then it was off to the game. We all sat on the Ville side to cheer Mary and her teammates on, though Keith and I ended up at the top of the bleachers with a fussy Bert. 

Keith had loads of questions, a lot of which I couldn't answer because things have changed so much since I played. Aunt Debbie filled us in on the new rules though.

Bert might not have been too interested in the game, but he decided #17 was a star afterwards. As Mary said, "He just wants to spit up on me a little and then we'll be best friends." I think she's right. Too bad she isn't going to school here because she would definitely be hired as a babysitter!

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